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World Music Day


It’s World Music Day and we at HorseBack have an official reason to celebrate some of our favourite songs. But music is not just a matter of pleasure and delight; it is also a powerful arrow in your mental health arsenal.

All kinds of studies have been done on the effects of music. They show that music can improve cognitive performance. Soothing music reduces stress considerably. Listening to music for an hour every day can reduce the intensity of physical pain and the symptoms of depression. It can improve sleep quality and galvanise motivation. It may be used as a boost to mood and general wellbeing. (Interestingly, in this study, the effect of music was enhanced if participants used it intentionally to increase their happiness, so conscious intention was clearly important in this one.)
The type of music is crucial. If you want to exercise harder, choose upbeat music. For relaxation, improvement in mood and helping alleviate depression, classic or soothing music are most effective. (We read one piece that suggests heavy metal or techno can actually worsen mood. We say nothing to all the headbangers out there. But maybe a little Mozart might balance out the Megadeath.)

We know people who run music therapy programmes which are wonderfully life-changing. One admirable woman of our acquaintance set up a musical club during lockdown to bring young and old together and combat isolation and loneliness. She created a ukulele orchestra on Zoom and it had the most glorious results.

Learning to play a musical instrument is one of the surest ways to enter the state of flow, a psychological state observed and described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This is when humans become completely absorbed in a difficult and meaningful task, and is often regarded as the closest thing to pure happiness.

Music is also a great way to help your nervous system reset itself. The physiological side of mental health is often overlooked. Trauma can live in the body and releasing mental pain, anxiety and fear from the physical self is deeply healing. Some people go into this on a profound level, with astonishing results, but you don’t have to learn about the complexities of the vagus nerve to help yourself. A simple release for uncomfortable emotions can involve wild, unselfconscious dancing to your favourite music. One of the HorseBack team does this in her kitchen. Any difficult or painful emotions, like resentment or shame or anxiety, and she’s in that kitchen, pogoing it all out like it’s 1979. She swears she can move from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system in three songs.

In other words, music is not only one of the great joys of life, it can be a lifesaver too.

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We do not rely on government funding so any donations will greatly assist with the running of our charity.

We do not rely on government funding so any donations will greatly assist with the running of our charity.